Guest Article: Considerations for Night Operations- Part 4, by Max Alexander

Yesterday, I talked about the technology behind night vision and combined thermal/IR devices as well as what should and should not be mounted on your rifle. I also wrote about when to use head mounted night vision. Now, let’s continue a little further with the idea of head mounted night vision and use of night vision in conflicts as we conclude this article series.

How To Mount Night Vision Monocular To Head

The question often comes up of how to mount your night vision monocular to your head. The provided “skull crusher” is not popular. The most effective way to mount this device is on a helmet. But no one wants to wear or carry a helmet. There are a couple of options. You can wear a “bump style” ProTech or airsoft knockoff tactical helmet, which will comfortably mount the night vision equipment while being lightweight. If you want ballistic protection, you can buy a MICH or ACH helmet off the Internet. You can also purchase lighter ballistic helmets, such as the ops-core FAST helmet.

Only you can decide what you’re prepared to wear. Yes, I know that a ballistic helmet does not stop direct strike from high velocity rounds. But depending on the situation, if you’re going to carry a helmet for your night vision equipment, it may be worth carrying one that is also ballistic protected. You never know what it may stop. If you are doing covert stuff, then carry a Crye Nightcap. Each to his own.

Above: ‘Gunfighter’ Helmet with Night Vision Attached

An Opinion

I will say this; in my opinion, it would be better to have one battle rifle equipped with an IR laser, have a PVS-14 mounted on a ballistic helmet, and a handheld FLIR thermal imager than a safe full of rifles and no night vision capability. You don’t have to use this stuff all of the time, but if you have it you have the choice of using it. For example, if you are hidden out someplace with your family after the SHTF, it’s going to be dark out there keeping watch at night.

With a PVS-14 and a FLIR you have the excellent capability of being able to scan your perimeter and pick up threats. You can even use these devices on ground domination activity patrols (GDA). Yes, I’ve told you that you can work out there at night, but the flipside is that without the equipment your visibility is seriously impeded, and without electric light it is very dark out there.

Owning Night Vision Tips Scale

So now we get to the other end of the scale. You, and the rest of your tactical team, have invested in this equipment. This means that you are not at a disadvantage against any aggressors who are similarly equipped. You don’t have to patrol all night with your PVS-14 over your eye. You may not feel it is appropriate or that the threat is high enough at all times. But you have the ability to flip it down and see what’s out there. You also have the ability to pull out your FLIR thermal imager and scan the next bound of your patrol movement. That’s a pretty convincing sales pitch for night vision equipment, right? I know that I want to be able to scan ahead of me and pick out that ambush force before I walk into it, if I have the chance to do so.

One of the big problems with night vision equipment and thermal is the expense. I refer back to what I said above about the number of rifles you have. Sell some. How many rifles can one man carry anyway? Night vision and thermal equipment is such a game changer that I believe it is worth the sacrifice to invest in it. At the very least, you want one PVS-14 (or equivalent) and thermal imager for your family group. I refer you back to my comments on the use of white light and parachute illumination flares for situations when you need to engage but not everybody is equipped with night vision optics.


A little earlier, when discussing raids, I touched on the dangers of fratricide. This is something that needs to be taken very seriously. Given that an assaulting force should properly be sweeping across the objective from the flank of the support by fire group, it is necessary for the fire support group to know when to shift fire away from the assault element. It doesn’t want to happen too soon, but it doesn’t want to happen too late. There are various methods that can be used. You can use radios to report objectives reached or phase lines. Or you can use something else along those lines.

You can use other signals, such as light or flares. However, none of these are foolproof. Do you want to use pen flares to signal a shift fire? Well, when the tracer is winging both ways up and down the objective and ricocheting off in all different directions, then you may find it hard to spot that flare. This may be true even if it is a different color from the dominant tracer. Things have been tried such as attaching light sticks to the end guys in the assault group. Again, it doesn’t work very well, and it also opens them up to being seen by the enemy.

I’m not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom, but clearly fratricide avoidance at night poses a challenge. If the fire support group is able to view the assault going in through night vision equipment, then we are in a better place.

IR Glint Tape

Oh, by the way, you may want to get that IR glint tape off your equipment. It reflects back when lit up by active IR from helicopters, in order to determine friendly forces. There was also at least one friendly fire incident where U.S. helicopters opened up on guys equipped with IR strobes, thinking it was muzzle flashes. The strobes were being worn to designate friendly troops!

Do Not Give Up

In summary, if I found myself without any night vision equipment, I would not consider that sufficient reason to give up. I have spent enough time wandering around the darkness to know that it can be done. However, night vision and thermal equipment is a definite game changer. If there is any danger that your adversaries will have it, and there is because it is widely available in the U.S., then you should also try and get hold of it too. You cannot simply buy night vision, put it on the shelf, and expect to “own the night” when the grid goes down. You need to train with it, shoot with it on the ranges, and spend time with it in the woods.

This is why we run a Night Firing class where we zero the lasers, conduct shooting drills, and then do a controlled night raid on a simulated objective. I have seen panic on night patrol classes where those with night vision who never practiced are impacted by that sudden realization that it is not the perfect solution. It is affected by dark nights under the canopy, by fogging, and by rain. This is why you need to train with it, if you take it off the shelf and expect to be a night ninja. Otherwise, this often leads to claustrophobia and rising panic. Don’t be that guy. However, once proficient, you will be glad you made the decision to get that PVS-14. I consider it a tactical necessity.


  1. Excellent article and fully agree with a safe full of guns or night vision. I sold and purchased night vision and haven’t looked back. One thing on care and feeding of night vision. You need batteries. Get a bunch of good AA’s along with rechargeable AA’s. I think eneloop makes excellent rechargeables. Also maybe get a solar charger if you are away from an electrical source. The batteries on the FLIR are internal and need recharging. In the field this would require a solar charger. The FLIR in my estimation takes more training to understand what it is you’re seeing because it doesn’t give you a true picture but solely goes by heet signature. Plus there are multiple settings that through practice you can use to your advantage. Take it(FLIR)on daily walks and play with it. Both day and night. You will not regret these purchases.

  2. Most need to get out at night and use natural vision(most Americans never get out and are”night blind”) before gearing up. Get to know and use your abilities,then you can find what works best for you.

  3. When purchasing NV equipment don’t forget that “one is none” if something goes wrong. If possible buy two units just in case you lose your one and only NV optic. Besides if you’re protecting your property in a SHTF situation then one guy with NV can only protect one half of the property at best. With two units your buddy would be able to protect the other side of the property, and also be able to show up to your side to help you should there be aggressors to confront. Also don’t forget that there are electronics in your optic so I would have to assume that it would be in danger of failure from an EMP attack. It would really suck to pay three or four thousand dollars for a NV optic just to have it fried when you really need it. There’s all sort of good ways to build a small faraday cage for your optic and it would be wise to always store it there.

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